Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’

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  • This 360 stereo pressing offers outstanding sound from first note to last, with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The keys to this stark recording – just Bob, his acoustic guitar, and harmonica – is correct tonality, as well as vocal presence with breathy intimacy, and here you get a good helping of all three
  • If you’ve played the MoFi or Sundazed LP, on the CD, the Tubey Magic here might just blow your mind
  • “These are beautifully crafted, tightly focused mini-masterpieces. And they have a radical edge, a political toughness, that one rarely finds in the folk music of the period. …the songs are uncompromising in their anger and unsparing in their analysis.”

Just about everything you could want in the sound is here: wonderful clarity, mindblowing transparency, clearly audible transients on the guitar, breathy texture to the vocals, full-bodied acoustic guitars, and more. If you’ve played other copies of the album — on MoFi, Sundazed or Columbia LP, on the CD, on whatever — the immediacy of the vocals and the Tubey Magic of the midrange are going to blow your mind. (more…)

Bob Dylan – The Times They Are A-Changin’ – A Sundazed Winner!

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Sonic Grade: B

Sundazed finally gets one REALLY right! The mono version here MOIDERS the competition. (It’s a mono recording with stereo echo added — how tough can it be?) Considering Sundazed’s dismal track record, I wouldn’t have thought they could do anything right.

David Bowie – Young Americans

 

  • A killer copy of Bowie’s one and only soul album with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • This pressing was simply bigger and fuller than the competition, with plenty of funky energy and three-dimensional studio space
  • On an exceptionally transparent copy such as this one, it’s much easier to pick out all the background vocalists in the relatively dense mixes that Bowie favored here, and that’s the kind of sound that wins shootouts 
  • One of our favorites by The Man, with so many killer tracks: Young Americans, Win, Fascination, Somebody Up There Likes Me, Across the Universe and, of course, Fame

Truly stunning sound throughout. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how lively the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with all these guys and gals.

This is one of our favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect. (more…)

Grieg / Piano Concerto – Curzon / Boult – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

One of the best Deccas — superb sound and music that belongs in your life!

This performance also includes Franck’s “Variations Symphoniques” and Litolff”s “Scherzo from Concerto Symphonique, Op. 102”.

Bob Seger – Stranger In Town

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  • An outstanding copy of Seger’s 1978 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • One of the few Bob Seger recordings capable of audiophile quality sound – this pressing is big, full and Tubey Magical (for 1978) with plenty of rock and roll energy
  • If you own a radio you know Stranger In Town – more than half of it still gets played on the radio to this day
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…it’s as lively as Night Moves, rocking even harder in some places and being equally as introspective in the acoustic numbers. If it doesn’t feel as revelatory as that record, in many ways it does feel like a stronger set of songs.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


Stranger In Town and Night Moves are clearly the two Must Own albums for Bob Seger fans, and with sound this good we would count ourselves among those who find his music interesting and compelling. (“Main Street” on Night Moves is one of the best radio-friendly pop songs ever recorded.)

Both these sides had the energy and rock solid weight we were looking for on this Classic Rock Album from 1978. If you own a radio you know Stranger In Town, because more than half the tracks got plenty of airplay, including:

Hollywood Nights
Still The Same
Old Time Rock & Roll
Feel Like A Number

and that monster power ballad, complete with strings (!):

We’ve Got Tonight

All sounding pretty darn good! (more…)

The Beach Boys – Sunflower

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  • A Top Copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • This pressing is surprisingly rich and smooth, with excellent bass and nice immediacy to the vocals
  • One of the better sounding Beach Boys recordings that really comes to life on the best copies
  • A 4 1/2 star album in the All Music Guide: “Brian Wilson once again back near the top of his game.”

This album — like Surf’s Up, which was released just after it — can really sound wonderful on a good pressing. If you love Pet Sounds, you’ll find plenty of the Beach Boys’ signature harmonies here, all recorded with real richness and warmth. (more…)

Rimsky-Korsakov / Capriccio Espagnol & Enesco / Smetana et al.

A SUPERB White Hot side one coupled with a better than Super Hot (A++ to A+++) side two, back to back on one disc, is a surprise indeed.This is only the second time a disc from a Reader’s Digest box set has made it to the site, and we’re continuing with more exciting orchestral music — Capriccio Espagnol (side two) and the Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 (side one) are the two longest pieces on record 8 of the set, and both of them are knockouts on this pressing.

This is truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND! Records do not get much more spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. Kenneth Wilkinson was the man behind the board for many of these RDG recordings, this very one in fact, and as you will hear, he was pretty much in a league of his own as a recording engineer in the early days of stereo. This record should provide you with all the proof you need.

Play it up against the best of the RCAs, Londons and Mercs from the period and you will see what I mean. And of course it will completely DESTROY any pressing you may have on Heavy Vinyl, from any label, at any playback speed, of any music.

Living Stereo Sound

You may remember that recordings from these sets were reissued by Chesky back in the ’90s, with mediocre sound of course, as all their reissues are at best mediocre. We never carried any of them even when we were carrying audiophile reissues.

I remember the first time I heard some of the records from this Scheherazade set and was knocked out — here was Tubey Magical RCA Living Stereo sound at a fraction of the price the real RCAs were commanding (a price I confess I could not begin to afford).

The problem — and it’s still a problem, though not much of one if you have a high quality, properly set up front end — is the vinyl. These sets were produced cheaply in order to be priced affordably (under $20 for 10 LPs in a box!), and that means the best vinyl was simply not part of the budget. To find pressings that play even Mint Minus Minus is not easy, even today. Back then, before the advent of modern enzyme-based cleaning fluids and expensive record cleaning vacuum machinery, there was no way to get the vinyl to play even that well.

This copy plays a bit quieter than most at Mint Minus Minus to Mint Minus, about as quiet as a well cared for vintage Shaded Dog or Merc.

As you can imagine we did not have dozens of these sets with which to do our shootout. We had three, and this copy is clearly the overall winner of the group by a substantial margin. (more…)

Classic Tracks: “She’s Not There”

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Classic Tracks: “She’s Not There, The Zombies

If one of the defining characteristics of a Classic Track is its immediate recognition, then The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” is as classic as it comes. One of its atypical characteristics, the distinctive opening bass notes and subsequent line that continues throughout the track, surely helped the band win the 1964 Hert’s Beat Competition, which earned them a recording contract with Decca Records. On the map and on their way.

The band had gotten together when they were 15-year-old schoolmates in 1961 in their hometown of St. Albans, England. Keyboardist Rod Argent recruited some of the members, as lead vocalist Colin Blunstone remembers, based on the alphabet. “We sat in class in alphabetical order, and I had a guitar,” Blunstone recalls.

Then after they won the competition, according to Blunstone, and just two weeks prior to their big recording session, producer Ken Jones said, “You could always try to write something.” (more…)

Bob Marley & The Wailers – Rastaman Vibration

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • Strong Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, excellent from start to finish
  • Big and rich, with the kind of full-bodied sound that this music needs to work its magic
  • Big bass is of course key to the best copies – this one has the deep punchy bass we love on Marley’s music
  • 4 Stars in Allmusic and Marley’s first Top Ten Album

When a record like this sounds right it’s not hard to what “right” is — the music just works. Up against the other copies we had on hand this one was pretty much doing it all.

What are the criteria by which the album should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, presence, frequency extension, transparency, Tubey Magic, texture (also known as freedom from smear), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and on and on down through the list. (more…)